06. Spelling Variants as they affect Jane and Bartholomew

Because of the complex history of the English language, nearly every sound can be legitimately spelled in more than one way.  This means that the successful student of historical records must anticipate the different ways that a personal name  or a place-name may have been written down in the centuries before standardization.

Milton Damerel, for example, was written Milton Damarell in a letter written by the rector in 1807 which appears on page 8;  Milton Damerell in White’s Devonshire Directory of 1850; and Milton Damarel in Hoskin’s gazetteer of 1954. According to the Domesday Book the land was held in 1086 by Robert d’Aumale so one can just imagine  the  many possible intermediate variants over the years as the name evolved from D’Aumale to Damerel.  In 1929 Bertil Blomé published his PhD dissertation, The Place-Names of North Devonshire, which provides the best guide to origins of the place-names and to the various forms and spellings used over the centuries. I will return to this subject once I have had a chance to consult Blomé regarding Milton Damerel.

Before people began to read and write, their names were recorded as they were heard by the person doing the recording. There are surprisingly few ways that  Fishleigh has been spelled.

The only instance of Fishligh I have ever come across is on the wall of Holy Trinity, on Jane and Bartholomew’s memorial plaque. I think it was a simple “Monday morning” error on the part of the inscriber. Imagine his frustration when he realized his mistake. “Oh, well”, he must have said to himself, “Who is going to notice?”.  He didn’t anticipate, I bet, the sleuths of the twenty-first century clipping back the intruding vines, taking a photograph, and submitting his work to a detailed analysis.

A good way to find the different spellings for a name is to use the IGI where variant spellings of surnames have been grouped with cross references so that if you search for all records with the surname Fishleigh you will see all of the variants recognized as such by the index. Included are christenings and marriages for Fishleigh, the most common form of the name in records, Fishley, Fishly and even one entry for a Fishli back in 1604. This is not an exhaustive list of Fishleigh variants but it comes close. Between 1916 and 2005 there were 2557 Fishleighs, 311 Fishleys and only 3 Fishlys born in England and Wales.

Many surnames in England were originally place-names.  Fishleigh is, apparently, one such locative surname. It was a manor, once part of the endowment of Tavistock Abbey, in the parish of Hatherleigh downstream on the river Torridge from the Fishleigh farms in the parish of Milton Damerel.  Leigh, according to  Blomé, denoted new settlements in clearings in the woods so perhaps there were fish in just such a clearing along the Torridge.  Blomé’s index is in my possession and includes Fishleigh and Fishleigh Barton so, while the etymology is seemingly obvious, I must look, later this week when I am in the University Library, to see what Blomé has to say on the matter. I wonder who the first resident of the clearing on the Torridge was to take the placename as a surname. Let’s take a look at  the Protestation Returns 1641-1642 to see where the Fishleighs were at that time.

The Devon Protestation Returns 1641 are to be found in the Papers of the House of Lords, 1642 and were published in 1973 with an excellent introduction by T. L. Stoate of Bristol. Every Englishman was required to sign the oath, “I, A.B., do in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow and protest to maintain and defend as far as I lawfully may, with my Life, Power and Estate, the true reformed Protestant Religion expressed in the Doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish Innovations within the Realm, contrary to the said Doctrine; and according to the Duty of my Allegiance I will maintain and defend His Majesty’s Royal Person, Honour and Estate as also the Power and Privileges of Parliament, the Lawful Rights and LIberties of the subjects, and every person that maketh this Protestation, in whatsoever he shall do in the lawful persuance of the same; and to my power, and as far as lawfully I may, I will oppose and by all good Ways and Means endeavour to bring condign Punishment on all such as shall by Force, Practice, Counsels, Plots, Conspiracies or otherwise, do anything to the contrary in this present Protestation contained; and further that I shall, in all just and honourable ways, endeavour to preserve the Union and Peace betwixt the Three KIngdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland; and neither for Hope, Fear nor other Respect, shall relinquish this Promise, Vow and Protestation.”

Among the 97 who signed at Milton Damerel we find one Leonard Fishly so it is clear that the migration up the river from Hatherleigh’s manor of Fishly occurred sometime before 1642.  The first to take the oath at Milton were the rector Thomas Bradford, the constable Tobias Bligh, the churchwarden Abraham Hobs and three Overseers of the Poor, Thomas Vigurs, Walter Williams and William Rattenbury.

Jane Pridis’ surname has many more variants than that of her husband. The IGI recognizes Preddes, Preddice, Preddis, Predice, Predies, Priddice, Priddis, Prideaux, Pridees, Prideis, Pridias, Pridice, Pridies, Pridis, Pridiss, Pridys, Pryddes, Pryddys and Prydys as variant forms of the same surname! It makes a researcher grateful for  databases whose searches allow wildcards. If Jane’s maiden surname was a form of Prideaux it likely had its origin in France and came with the Conqueror. One cannot rule out a locative connotation, though, because of its similarity to pres d’eau, meaning near or beside the water. Between 1916 and 2005 there were 2,067 persons with the surname Prideaux and only 5 with Pridis born in England and Wales.

Next I want to look at the Land Tax Assessments for the parish of Milton Damerel. The surviving records begin in 1780. What will these records tell us about the parish in Jane and Bartholomew’s time? Were there family members  named as proprietors or as occupiers of land in these records? Where were they living in the parish?

Later I want to look at Milton Damerel in 1801, a few months after Bartholomew’s death, because that was when the first “modern” census was taken in England.

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5 Responses to “06. Spelling Variants as they affect Jane and Bartholomew”

  1. Sarah Turner (nee Fishley) Says:

    What a great website of Fishleigh resources!
    I am trying to trace my Fishleigh ancestors. I am descended from Francis Fishleigh born 1831 Black Torrington. I think he was the son of Samuel Fishleigh born 1791 and Mary. Do you have any records of this family? I have been unable to find any surviving Fishleigh/Fishley lines apart from my own and would appreciate any help that you are able to give me.
    Best wishes
    Sarah

    • fishleigh Says:

      Thank you Sarah for your encouraging comment and for getting in touch.
      I do not believe I have records of your ancestors but I will confirm this later
      today and write again.

  2. Barry Lambert Says:

    Don,
    “Prideaux: A West Country Clan”, R.M.Prideaux, Phillimore, 1989, argues all Prideaux’s (with about 40 variant spellings) are descended from a Cornish local chief, or lord of the manor, at the time of the Conquest and that Prideaux is the Norman spelling of his name. The family grew in wealth and local importance, through various marriages. One bride was the descendent of a Norman baron who held many estates in Cornwall from Count Robert, half-brother of William I. The branch in Sutcombe came to great wealth through one member (a lawyer, what else!) fraudulently acquiring dissolved monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. This is the origin of Prideaux Place in Padstow and its present owners. Unfortunately Devon parish records are such that it seems impossible to find the connection of the less wealthy, including yeoman, Prideaux families in Devon in the late 1600s and later to the established Prideaux pedigrees although the book does speculate about the possibilities. It is a well researched book. I have a copy and can elaborate on this if anyone wishes.

  3. Colleen Smith Says:

    Very interesting site.Very knowledgeable!
    I have a puzzel for you?
    My great, great grandmother’s middle name is Fishleigh, ( Margaret Fishleigh Smale m. Gorvett). born in Bideford Devon.
    Her step brother, Thomas Oake ( Samuel and Sarah Hearding) married Eleanor Fishleigh.( unknown parents). Two of Margaret’s children married a brother and sister Fishleigh in Sparta Ontario Canada.
    Is this all coincidence or is Margaret a cousin to Fishleigh in Devon?

  4. liz Brown Says:

    I wonder have you any record of a Thomasine Prideaux of sutcombe marrying a William Allin in approx 1747. I have recently received a rough copy of my family tree and this is where it begins.

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